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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Bruins May Have the Flu, but Pavel Datsyuk is Sick in Detroit Win

There were 53 total goals scored over the first two nights of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which featured games being played as if someone had optioned for no offsides on the big Sega machine at NHL headquarters.

On Friday night, the third eve of the NHL playoffs - and the first involving the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings - there were a more common 11 goals scored on the evening, as the Canadiens blew out the Lightning, 4-0, and the Ducks got by the Stars, 3-2, giving both Montreal and Anaheim 2-0 series leads.

Meanwhile, in Boston, the Wings squeaked by the Bruins, 1-0, but there was nothing mundane about the game’s lone tally.

Maybe for his next trick, Pavel Datsyuk will turn bread into wine at the annual pre-Boston Marathon carbo-load dinner. Perhaps he’ll snap his fingers and rid every drug store in a 45-mile radius of the Thermaflu some of the Bruins players desperately still seem to need. He might just pull a rabbit out of his hat. That would be neat too.

It will be hard to top the way he stoned the Bruins last night, with 3:10 left to play in what had been a taut, if not sloppy battle, with a play that brought hockey wizardry to the Garden. In a game that seemed more like it would be marred by a missed opportunity (hello, Jordan Caron and Loui Ericsson) or a stupid mistake (everybody, together, in Lou Brown voice: “Nice play, Tuukka, coming out of your net that far. Don’t ever $#%&*#$ do it again”) it was instead a play that left the post game cleanup crew collecting jaws along with empty beer cups and popcorn boxes in the aisles of the Garden.

Filthy.

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Of course, the kicker to all this was that only moments earlier, the Bruins had to watch Milan Lucic’s redirection of a Jarome Iginla shot sneak past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who somehow got the puck to ricochet to his right, without ever crossing the goal line.

“That was a fortunate save. It was pretty lucky,” Howard said. “(Lucic) stuck his stick out and didn’t get a lot on it. I just sort of spun my glove and was able to get enough of it.”

Lucky, it was. Howard made 25 saves on the night, but wasn’t particularly tested too many times by the Bruins, who played confused at times in Detroit’s end, either the work of the Red Wings’ defense, or the flu continuing to slow some players down after ripping through the Boston dressing room last week. The bug sidelined Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, who didn’t skate Friday morning, was also out, forcing Andrej Meszaro and Corey Potter, he of the three games played with Boston since arriving in March, to dress for the blueline crew. With Chris Kelly still suffering back spasms, and Daniel Paille recovering from a concussion, Justin Florek and fan favorite Jordan Caron stepped in, and just like that, the Bruins’ roster went from having their familiar faces caricatured with the President’s Trophy on a t-shirt to “Who the hell are these guys?”

“Injuries are part of the game,” Julien said. “We kind of had to wait the whole day to find out who was in, who was out. We’ve had surprises all week long with the flu bug going around, so it was nice that we were able to get 20 guys in the lineup. The guys that stepped in certainly did a good job.”

Aside from Caron’s whiff on a Bruins’ flurry against Howard in the second period, Boston hardly missed a beat with the replacements. That includes on the power play, where Detroit was 0-2, quelling some fear that Kelly and Paille’s absences may really hurt Boston’s penalty kill unit.

Besides, the Bruins can’t afford to make excuses. The Game 1 loss isn’t really all that surprising, based on not only the way the Wings handled the Bruins in the regular season, but also Boston’s tendency to come out in the first round of the playoffs with all the intensity of Tomas Kaberle’s pet toad. It took a miracle against the Maple Leafs last year; the distance-plus against Montreal in 2011. The Bruins understand if they don’t get out of the first round, it will be one of the most colossal failures of the Claude Julien era.

Even against the formidable Red Wings, who are a typical eight seed the same way Dustin Pedroia is the perfect spokesperson for Big and Tall.

But the Bruins were ripe for this Game 1 loss, maybe even another on Easter Sunday at the Garden, to be honest. The Red Wings’ youth and speed don’t mesh well with the Bruins’ approach, but give them a couple days to adjust, and the balance of power may tilt back toward the Bruins’ bench. If it doesn’t, blame the flu, I guess. Hard to lay to much blame, even last night, when you lose on the mystical hands of Datsyuk.

"It's just one game," said Bruins forward David Krejci, who was not his normal playoff self on Friday, with only a pair of shots on net. "We have to obviously play a lot better. We have to look at video and make some adjustments. The next game is going to be important. It's a bit different if you go to Detroit 1-1 or 0-2. We have to do everything we can to win on Sunday.”

If Friday’s game proved anything, it’s that Detroit is a formidable opponent, something most of us understood in any case. The Penguins have to already be breathing a collective sigh of relief that they merely have to deal with Columbus rather than the Red Wings.

No such luck for the Bruins, prescribed water and rest, and hope the Easter Bunny brings baskets filled with Mucinex.


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